Paid in full were the words marked across the paper that burned in a bucket at the sanctuary of the United Methodist Church in Mandan, North Dakota. The congregation celebrated the burning of a mortgage, saving more than $239,000 in interest payments.
When Rev. Bruce Adam was appointed to serve Mandan UMC in North Dakota, he found that the church was facing the challenge of paying off a mortgage loan for $250,000 over 30 years. The loan was needed to complete a new addition to the church building.
Members of the congregation began to pray about what could be done. The debt seemed overwhelming. The idea surfaced to begin paying down the principal amount of the loan while continuing to make the monthly payments. A special offering, the principal-only fund, was started and continued the first Sunday of each month.
"The idea started slow," says Adams. "Each month, we would report on how much was donated and the total amount of principal on the loan that was left. We continued, and people started to see it drop."
Each month the congregation viewed the total amount of loan, the amount of interest the congregation was paying, the amount paid toward principal, and the amount of principal remaining. Steve VanDyke, a member of the congregation, created the slide that was projected with a thank you to the members for generous giving.
"The thing that impressed me was that people gave beyond their regular weekly giving to make this happen. The congregation committed to making their regular payments on the loan and encouraging gifts to the principal-only fund," says Adams.
Some larger gifts were received. "We had a $5,000 memorial gift that helped us launch," says Adams. "We have had other larger gifts along the way."
Rev. Kermit Culver, who serves as the district superintendent of the Northwest District for the Dakotas Conference, attended the worship service when the mortgage was burnt. Culver thanked those present for their generous, faithful giving and encouraged members to continue the gifts and dream about the possibilities of serving God's kingdom with new and vibrant ministry.
A member from Vincent United Methodist Church in Minot, North Dakota, was visiting family in Mandan and attended the service. "They liked the idea. So now Minot Vincent has started a principal-only fund," says Adam.
Mandan UMC is looking at new ministry opportunities and also some building maintenance projects like new windows and shingles. "The people of the church are faithful and good stewards," says Adams.